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Tabatha H

I have chosen to share my story to help society become more aware of how lung disease affects so many people -- especially in my family and possibly myself.

I lost my mother to lung cancer in 2004. She was diagnosed at the age of 40 and passed away a few weeks after her 42nd birthday. When the cancer was discovered, it's location and size didn't allow for surgery to be an option and the chemo/radiation did not reduce the size. Her battle was aggressive and short. It was brutal to watch your mother who had kissed your boo-boos and held you up when you are down crumble to being sick almost daily, struggling to enjoy a good day and happy thoughts. She always tried to put on a happy face, but you could always see the pain in her eyes.

In my extended family, I have also lost my grandmother, cousins, aunts and uncles to numerous lung related complications. Not only does poor lung health run in the family, we tend to amplify complications by smoking cigarettes.

I fell right into line with the rest of my family and began smoking when I was a teenager. In 2009, I decided that I would no longer allow my body to be controlled by cigarettes and I quit. It has been the best health choice I have made for myself.

After quitting, I was able to feel the real difference in my lungs and how much easier it was for me to breathe. I no longer wake with coughing spells or wheezing which I had thought was normal. Now, I only huff and puff while exercising!

Over the last few years, I have been helping the American Lung Association by participating in Fight for Air Climbs and LUNG FORCE Walks. I not only want to be an inspiration to someone who is wanting to quit smoking, but help ALA raise funding for research, education, and advocacy in better lung health.

Since my mother had lung cancer and I am an ex-smoker, my chances of developing lung cancer are drastically increased. The only early detection option I currently have is a yearly lung X-rays. Without further development in early detection and treatments, my children may very well have to experience what I did and I may experience what my mother went through. It is scary to think that I could lose my life even though I corrected my bad health choice.

First published: November 10, 2016

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